The Invitation actualizes an internal conflict many have faced:  We think something is wrong but fear the attention, scrutiny, or embarrassment it will bring if we point it out–especially if our assumptions are false.  The film sets upon a dinner party that on the surface seems innocent enough, but underneath lies palpable terror. It is a tale steeping in paranoia, that will have you anxiously squirming in your seat. 

After not seeing each other for two years, Will is invited to his ex wife Eden’s dinner party. Present there are Will and Eden’s mutual friends, a culturally diverse group that would make an equal rights activist nod in approval, along with Eden’s new boyfriend, David. After the initial awkward introduction between Will and David, things stay, well, awkward. We learn that Eden and her boyfriend have joined a cult and Will (understandably so) becomes immediately suspicious that there is more to this dinner party than wine and food. 

The first half is a mixture of unusual conversation regarding death and obscure flashbacks as we patiently wait for The Invitation to unfold.  It stays sealed for an uncomfortably tense first hour and I wondered if the unsettling feel was due to the film’s foreboding tone,or we were just witnessing one awkward dinner party. Either way I eagerly awaited for the tension to be cut with a literal knife– perhaps into someones stomach?  

Will’s friends sense something is not right but are either too polite or too unassuming to point it out. There are enough red flags early on that would make the majority of us stand up and say “okay thats enough for me.”  But they don’t. Will’s paranoia is founded in rational thought yet his friend’s lack of concern feels rather unrealistic.

In a nut shell: For a thriller, The Invitation manages to tackle themes of grief and loss rather effectively without compromising suspense. It is dripping in an atmosphere somewhere between tense and excruciatingly uncomfortable.  At times the the film can feel like a group therapy session you desperately don’t want to be apart of.  While its final moment takes the film to absurd new heights, its 3rd act still delivers and is deeply satisfying. The Invitation puts the kettle on a low flame and expects it to boil.  It eventually does, but god I wanted my tea sooner.   (2.5 out of 4)

 

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